|Dryden Home > Collections > Movie Home > M2-F2 > Movie # EM-0021-01|
M2-F2 flight preparation and launch
|Formats||160x120 15-fps QuickTime Movie (1,449 KBytes)
320x240 30-fps QuickTime Movie
320x240 30-fps MPEG-1 Movie (3,979 KBytes)
|Still photos of this aircraft are available in several resolutions at
This movie clip runs about 27 seconds and shows the cockpit canopy close-out by the ground crew, the aircraft hanging from the NB-52B wing pylon, and the M2-F2 being dropped away from the mothership.
A fleet of lifting bodies flown at the NASA Flight Research Center (FRC), Edwards, California, from 1963 to 1975 demonstrated the ability of pilots to maneuver (in the atmosphere) and safely land a wingless vehicle. These lifting bodies were basically designed so they could fly back to Earth from space and be landed like an aircraft at a pre-determined site. They served as precursors of today's Space Shuttle, the X-33, and the X-38, providing technical and operational engineering data that shaped all three space vehicles. (In 1976 NASA renamed the FRC as the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) in honor of Hugh L. Dryden.)
In 1962, FRC Director Paul Bikle approved a program to build a lightweight, unpowered lifting body as a prototype to flight test the wingless concept. It would look like a "flying bathtub," and was designated the M2-F1. Built by Gus Briegleb, a sailplane builder from El Mirage, California, it featured a plywood shell, placed over a tubular steel frame crafted at the FRC. Construction was completed in 1963.
The success of Dryden's M2-F1 program led to NASA's development and construction of two heavyweight lifting bodies based on studies at NASA Ames Research Center and NASA and Langley Research Center -- the M2-F2 and the HL-10, both built by the Northrop Corporation, Los Angeles, California. The "M" refers to "manned" and "F" refers to "flight" version. "HL" comes from "horizontal landing" and "10" is for the tenth lifting body model to be investigated by Langley.
The first flight of the M2-F2 -- which looked much like the M2-F1 -- occurred on July 12, 1966. Thompson was the pilot. By then, the same B-52 used to air launch the famed X-15 rocket research aircraft had been modified to also carry the lifting bodies into the air and Thompson was dropped from the B-52 wing pylon mount at an altitude of 45,000 feet on that maiden glide flight.
On May 10, 1967, during the sixteenth glide flight leading up to powered flight, a landing accident severely damaged the vehicle and seriously injured the NASA pilot, Bruce Peterson. Following the mishap, the M2-F2 was redesigned with a center fin as the M2-F3, which flew from 1970 to 1972.
The M2-F2 weighed 4,620 pounds without ballast, was roughly 22 feet long, and had a width of about 10 feet.
|Keywords||M2-F2; lifting bodies; Space Shuttle; X-33; X-38; Flight Research Center; Dryden Flight Research Center; Paul Bikle; M2-F1; Gus Briegleb; FRC; HL-10; Milt Thompson; Bruce Peterson; M2-F3; NB-52B|